Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guest Post: Child Life Mommy talks about Volunteering

Today we are so excited to be joined by the one and only Child Life Mommy, Shani! Shani Thornton is a Certified Child Life Specialist and parent of two young children. She provides valuable information to child life specialists, parents and professionals working with kids.  She is the author of a children's book, It's Time For Your Checkup What To Expect When Going To a Doctor Visit

To learn more about Shani, you can follow her blog at ChildLifeMommy.com or contact her at ChildLifeMommy@gmail.com

We love following her blog and seeing all her adorable and informative pictures on Instagram and tweets on Twitter! If you haven't already, run over to her blog for information about child life and so much more!

Thinking of becoming a child life specialist, but not really sure where to start? Or maybe you have a passion in working with children and want to help them cope during their hospitalization, through play and activities.The best place to begin this process is to look into volunteering at a child life department. Volunteering will give you the opportunity to work with child life specialists, pediatric patients and their families.

Volunteers are vital to any program, as the specialists are spread thin with their daily duties. Child life specialists usually have a large number of patients to see daily;  prepare for medical procedures, provide procedural support, one on one interventions, run groups activities in the playroom, along with the numerous medical team meetings, rounds and in-services to attend. Oh and don't forget charting, cleaning toys, ordering supplies, writing grants and supervising interns. Yes, it is an exhausting job and we need help. Volunteers are a huge part of how a program functions.

Here are the 7 steps that are typically involved in becoming a volunteer.
1. Contact the child life department at a local hospital or clinic: Find out if they need help and what is the age requirement. Some hospitals will allow 16 years of age and others are strictly 18 and older. What time of day they need help and is it weekdays or weekends. Also, what department or population would it be for (emergency department, oncology unit, infants, adolescents).

2. Contact volunteer services: The volunteer coordinator will have you fill out paperwork, possibly have an interview with them or a child life specialist and ask for references. Once it is all accomplished, than you will have to complete a mandatory training class and a health screening.

3. Mandatory volunteer training class: The class typically goes over hospital policies, HIPPA (patient privacy), infection control, fire safety, volunteer policies (dress code, parking, breaks, signing-in, and a scheduled commitment).

4. Medical clearance: The hospital wants to make sure that anyone coming into contact with patients and families is up to date on their immunizations, including a PPD and flu shot. Sometimes your primary physician can do it or they will send you to a department for employees and volunteers, facilitated by the hospital.

5. Smile for the camera: Once all the paperwork is done than you will be sent to the security department to receive your new shiny volunteer badge with a photograph of your happy smiley face on it. :)

6. Training with child life: You have now jumped through many medical hoops and are just about ready to begin volunteering. The child life specialist will have you come to the unit to begin training. They will cover more hospital policies and child life guidelines. They will explain the importance of infection control and cleaning the toys after each use, proper hand washing and when to gown/glove/mask when working with children on contact isolation. They will go over playroom rules, working one on one with patients, and the importance of letting children feel empowered to play, create and feel normal.

7. Independence Once you are well established and have a routine on the unit, then the specialist may give you a little bit more freedom without having to shadow or assist them. Some of those duties could include running the playroom, see patients on isolation and deliver toys and comfort items.

Volunteering will give you the opportunity to really make a difference in the children and families lives. If you are interested in pursuing a career in child life, than you already establishing one of the criteria for enrollment in an educational program or internship site. They roughly require 25-50 volunteer hours depending on the school or hospital.

Best of luck in the journey to one of the most rewarding jobs!